Welcome to a New Semester

Dear parents and families,

It was wonderful to meet our newest (and some veteran) Badger families during SOAR this summer — welcome! And to our more seasoned Badger families — welcome back!

As Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, I oversee a variety of campus programs and services, including the Parent and Family Program, designed to help your student succeed both inside and outside of the classroom. We believe that parents are our partners and strongest allies, and we are here alongside our academic colleagues to help coach and support your students through their time at UW–Madison. A large part of this is ensuring students know how to find community, get involved, and be well — all of which contribute to their overall success.

The past academic year was exciting, welcoming Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin to UW, naming new Provost Charles Isbell (who arrived on campus in early August), and breaking ground on a new building for the School of Computer, Data & Information Science. We said goodbye to the Shell and hello to the Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center; welcomed home Wisconsin’s own Miss America — nuclear engineering student Grace Stanke; and we celebrated our Badger women’s ice hockey team in their unprecedented seventh national championship win.

We also weathered a tough spring semester, as many of you likely recall, grieving tragic student losses and supporting our community in the aftermath of a viral racist video that deeply affected our Black students.

So while we celebrated the exciting milestones, we also spent time this summer reflecting on where we could do better — listening to student experiences and feedback — and adjusting some of the ways we approach our work. This has included reviewing our communication practices and allowing space for more trust-building and dialogue within our community, particularly across differences. It is important to us that each student feels like they belong here and understands the community values we expect and uphold.

Students will see more educational opportunities to engage on topics like free speech, civility, and belonging, this year — all critical concepts to understand and practice in order to be successful in our democratic society. It is equally important for students to reflect on how their actions and decisions can affect others, whether it be sharing degrading or intimidating comments with others or online, choosing to drink alcohol in excess, or not seeking consent in sexual behavior. We address these topics with your students, too, and appreciate your partnership in having these conversations.

As your student prepares to be back on campus, here are a few seeds you could plant to help them make a successful transition:

  • Get involved outside of the classroom. UW–Madison has more than 1,000 student organizations, and students can interact with many of them at the student org fair, Sept. 12 and 13, during Wisconsin Welcome. Encourage your student to explore their interests and to try something new.
  • Establish healthy habits. We have two amazing new recreational facilities on campus — Bakke Recreation & Wellbeing Center near the lakeshore residence halls, and the Nicholas Recreation Center (“The Nick”) on the southeast side of campus. Membership is included in student fees, and there are sport clubs, intramurals, massage therapy, fitness classes, an ice rink, pool access, wellness coaching, and much more to explore.
  • Find your community. Campus jobs, student organizations, study groups, residence hall activities, and identity-based centers (including cultural, faith, military-affiliated, and more) are some of the many ways students can get connected with peers who have similar interests.

A great place for your student to find help if they’re not sure where to go is at the Dean of Students Office. And a wonderful place for you to keep coming back to for community support and professional resources is the Parent and Family Program.

We are excited to have your student on campus and to help them make the most of their time at UW–Madison! All the best as you make the transition together. Remember we are here for you, too.

On, Wisconsin!

Lori Reesor, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs